The free will defense relates to the concept of natural evil insofar the claim that evil is an inescapable element of the world and will always exist. Natural evil theories as advanced by J.L. Mackie and others purport to deny the existence of God based on the fact that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect, yet he does not act to stamp out the evil in the world that exists. The free will defense counters this by first pointing out that God cannot be expected to do literally anything, despite being omnipotent. In particular, God cannot act in contravention to His own nature, nor can he create beings that possess free will yet do not choose to commit evil, because to do so would be contradictory. Alvin Plantinga argues that God’s creation of humans and imbuing them with free will is a perfectly acceptable explanation of why God does not act on His own to remove evil from existence; God places a higher moral value on letting His creations act than merely fighting evil.
Additionally, the free will defense argues that there are some things that are out of even God’s scope to create. The idea of a world populated by beings that possess free will yet always refuse to do evil is such a world, due to the fact that it is inherently contradictory. Plantinga therefore concludes that the existence of evil and the existence of God do not contradict one another, because God lacks the capacity to create a world where it is only possible for creations to act in a morally good fashion. Additionally, God places a high value on the concept of free will, in large part because it makes the concept of moral goodness meaningful: if creatures cannot choose evil, their goodness means nothing.
- Pojman, Louis P. Philosophy: The Pursuit of Wisdom. Belmont, California: Thomson Wadsworth, 2006.